How to Seal Oil Pastels

Updated April 17, 2017

Oil pastels blur the lines between drawing and painting. Like chalk, pastels are known for their brilliance, but they are not as messy as chalk. Pastels are made without oxidants in order to assure they keep their brilliant colours. The lack of oxidants, however, makes oil pastels blendable, but they never fully dry. That characteristic makes colourful art pieces susceptible to smudging. It also raises the question on how best to archive them. There are four ways to preserve oil pastels; using a fixative, storing between sheets of newsprint, using spray varnish and framing under glass.

To use a spray fixative on your oil pastel while the work is in progress, place art work on newspaper outside or in a well ventilated room. Use when temperature is between 10.0 and 26.6 degrees C. Shake can for two minutes. Hold the can 6 to 9 inches from the surface and spray lightly in a sweeping motion. The piece will be dry in 5 to 10 minutes.

To prevent pastel artworks from smearing while storing them in between sessions, use unprinted newsprint. Cut a sheet larger than the size you are working on. Cover the surface while the oil pastel is being stored.

To permanently seal the oil pastel with a clear acrylic spray, place the finished art work on a newspaper outside or in a well ventilated room. Use when temperature is at room temperature about 25 degrees C. Shake can for 30 to 60 seconds. Hold the can 10 to 12 inches from the surface, spraying with quick short mists. The pastel will dry in 15 minutes. For additional coats, spray with a back and forth motion.

To protect the oil pastel from smudging while displaying it on the wall, mat and frame the art work behind glass.


Use caution when using both the fixative and sealer--they contain products that are harmful to the nervous system and poisonous if swallowed. Do not use if you are pregnant. Do not spray in your eyes.

Things You'll Need

  • Oil pastel drawing
  • Fixative
  • Spray varnish
  • Newsprint
  • Newspaper
  • Mat and frame with glass
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About the Author

Ruth Eshbaugh is a freelance graphic designer, writer, artist and photographer who has been writing for eHow, LIVESTRONG.COM and other websites since 2008. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Eshbaugh is a published haiku author.